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The concept of active learning and the measurement of learning outcomes: A review of research in engineering higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Article number276
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2019
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Active learning has gained growing political, instructional, and research interest. However, the definitions of active learning are wide. The learning outcomes related to it have been mostly positive but the measurement methods are not without problems. This review provides an overview of active learning, especially in the context of engineering higher education, by answering two research questions: (1) How is the concept of active learning defined and justified in engineering higher education research? (2) What are the learning outcomes connected to active learning and how is learning measured in engineering higher education research? Sixty-six empirical articles were analyzed inductively with qualitative content analysis. The analysis showed that active learning was defined in various ways, and in some articles, it was not defined at all. In addition, justification (theoretical or empirical) for the use of active learning was seldomly reported. Finally, the indicators used to measure the impact of active learning on students’ learning outcomes were mostly based on students’ self-report data and focused on course specific development in subject-related knowledge. More thorough descriptions and theoretical justifications, as well as the consideration of learning outcomes with appropriate research methods, could reinforce the transparency of empirical interventions and the application of active learning.


  • Active learning, Engineering, Higher education, Learning outcomes, Review

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